Echolocation is a bat’s prime method of finding food and orienting itself, but it also helps the animals find and keep their mates, according to a new study. Bat calls contain detailed information an individual’s identity, which helps male bats avoid rivals and helps females find their partners.
Researchers in Germany studied the greater sac-winged bat (Saccopteryx bilineata) and discovered their calls encoded information like gender, age, group affiliation and individual identity. Much more than sonar for hunting, the ultrasonic calls help bats woo each other. The team, led by Mirjam Knörnschild, played female bat calls to male bats, the males responded with “courtship vocalizations,” while male calls played to males elicited aggressive replies. The new research appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.